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Progressive Fiction


Spoon: Gimme Fiction

Merge, 2005

Rating: 4.5


Posted: May 12, 2005

By Laurence Station

For Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, the creative duo behind Spoon’s albums (touring bassist Josh Zarbo and pianist Eric Harvey appear on one track), it’s all about finding the right vibe. Kill the Moonlight, with its stripped-bare rhythms, broken down into basic elements and then reconfigured to sound incredibly expansive, proved Daniel and Eno weren’t content to rehash the appealing but less adventurous indie rock of Spoon’s 2001 breakthrough, Girls Can Tell. Moonlight’s hotly anticipated successor, Gimme Fiction, validates the assessment that Spoon is one of the boldest groups currently operating. Less arresting but more unified than Kill the Moonlight, Fiction finds Daniel and Eno exploring the tension between a tight rhythm section and chaotic production techniques (from messy guitar parts to bizarre samples). And that provides an edge to the music that not only makes for an attention-grabbing collection, but also rewards repeated listens.

The core trio of Daniel, Eno and co-producer Mike McCarthy recorded more than half of Fiction’s eleven tracks, although other collaborators make significant contributions. Tosca Strings members Ames Asbell on viola, and cellist Sara Nelson support two cuts (the shuffling “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” and prickly closer “Merchants of Soul”); Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers sings background vocals on the superb, anxious funk number “I Turn My Camera On;” John Painter plays trumpet, trombone and saxophone on the rolling, piano-driven highpoint “My Mathematical Mind.” Fragments of work done during aborted recording sessions by producers John Vanderslice and Scott Solter survive on the moody, meandering "Was It You?"

But it’s obvious that Daniel and Eno ultimately discovered the right tone for the album working with McCarthy. If nothing else, there will be a slew of also-ran tracks sitting in a vault somewhere just begging for B-side or deluxe reissue release down the road. (Indeed, initial pressings of Fiction come with a four-track bonus disc of outtakes and demos.) Given Fiction's bumpy recording history, the fact that the album holds together so tightly is a credit to the disciplined consistency with which Eno and Daniel approached the material.

Daniel pens an ode to the creative process and his chosen profession on the bold, Beatle-esque opener “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” claiming “When you don't feel it, it shows / They tear out your soul / And when you believe they call it rock and roll.” And it’s that often torturous cycle of creating something others can appreciate and then having to top oneself that permeates the musical textures and needles through the emotional fabric of Fiction. From the opening verse of “I Summon You” (“Remember the weight of the world / It's a sound that we used to buy / On cassette and 45”) to “The Infinite Pet” -- which serves as an amusingly abstract complement to Girls' “The Fitted Shirt” (“I never knew the coat check was danger / ’Til I met this one and took it inside”) -- Fiction indirectly comments on the nature of the music business and reveals just how far the band has progressed over the past few years.

On the dynamic “They Never Got You,” Daniel sings “Did you repeat yourself / 'Cause no one would hear /And just say it again / 'Cause they never got you and you never got them.” With Gimme Fiction, Spoon buttresses the idea that a band can retain its identity without being repetitious. Which undoubtedly bodes well for any and all future releases.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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